I'm definitely guilty of looking to far flung, exotic destinations for adventure, but Ireland has been on my radar for a long time and so when I was booked for two Irish weddings at either end of April this year I decided it was the perfect opportunity for a busman's holiday (quite literally, as I was travelling in my campervan, Sunny the Wonderbus).
Whether it was the sheer beauty of the place, or the endorphins coursing through my veins as my hyperactive boyfriend pushed me to cycle and walk my way through the most active couple of weeks of my life I'll never know, but it's safe to say that I was pretty emotional; every day something, someone or someplace moved me to tears of happiness.
Rather than write up the whole trip, here are my top ten, in no particular order:
1. The Ring of Kerry. Mind blowing scenery, towering mountains and ancient native woodland.
2. The Gap of Dunloe. We hired bikes in Killarney and caught the boat from Ross Castle to Kate Kearney's Cottage then cycled up to the Gap from there. Not for the faint hearted - the route is steep and winding, but so worth it when you get to the top.
3. The Connemara. Ponies, windswept wild scenery and lots of water. We didn't explore much on the way up, but I was doing the photography for a wedding at Cashel House Hotel, Connemara, so later I explored more and was blown away.
4. Galway City. A vibrant, musical hub with campervan parking right in the centre, perfect! We tried the sessions at Tig Cóilí and Taaffes Bar, both of which were packed with tourists like us, before heading over the river to Cranes Bar where it was much more local feeling and there were incredible sessions going on upstairs and downstairs.
5. Trad session at De Barras, Clonakilty. So many amazing musicians crammed into the bar at De Barras, the friendly locals made sure we knew where the craic was!
6. Dingle and the Slea Peninsula. I loved Dingle for the colourful houses and the relaxed atmosphere. We parked up overnight on the Marina, and hired bikes the next day to cycle 52km around the Slea Peninsula - it was hard going as we were cycling into the wind for a lot of it, but the views were incredible and we saw a pod of dolphins really close to the shore.
7. Cliffs of Moher. Mindblowing cliffs, and a very very windy walk where I was sure I was going to get blown into the sea.
8. Baltimore Fiddle Fair. My dad just happened to be visiting Baltimore with friends towards the end of my trip, so I ended up changing my ferry ticket and staying a few more days to catch some of the action at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair - I met some lovely people, incredible musicians and even spotted Jeremy Irons playing a spot of fiddle himself!
9. Matt Molloy's, Westport. Having cycled 42kms of The Western Greenway that day, we were thirsty for a stout and some good music. Everybody recommends Matt Molloy's, owned by its namesake who happens to be one of the Chieftans (a famous trad Irish band). We stumbled upon a huge session taking place, eventually realising that we'd actually walked straight into Matt Molloy's wedding! We were treated to the biggest session the pub had ever seen, apparently, and had a grand old time!
10. The Ring of Beara. Now, I'm not entirely sure that I was technically allowed to drive this in Sunny the Wonderbus - the road is incredibly narrow and winding, and I'm pretty sure I was over the width and length limit! But I drove in nonetheless, with only a couple of hairy moments and one massively long and challenging downhill reverse. The scenery was incredible and it was well worth the anxiety!
All in all it was one of the best trips of my life, and being able to practise my Irish wedding photography while I was there was such a bonus! I'm hoping that there'll be some photography referrals from my lovely Irish couples, as I'd love to return photograph more weddings over there. Needless to say I'll be back in Ireland before long, as a wedding photographer or not!